Unconvinced by Nova Swing, a friend asks me, “Are you happier than before, or something ?” The Course of the Heart, she says, scared her stiff. “This book doesn’t scare me at all.”
I answer that I don’t think it’s happiness. But I’m definitely less angry than I was. “Also,” I remind her, “The Course of the Heart was supposed to scare you to death, which Nova Swing isn’t.” Then I read this journal entry from 1990, when I was finishing The Course of the Heart, & realise I’m neither the 45 year old who wrote it, nor the 20 year old being described–
Driving to Oxford I glimpsed a single figure on the hard shoulder of the motorway, silhouetted at the top of a long rise against the grey sky full of distance. All that had happened was that his car had broken down half an hour before, & now he was walking back to it from the AA phone box. But the weather was bad, & in the right circumstances a figure like this, hunched up, hands in pockets, can quickly take on an air less of temporary defeat or dejection as of acceptance. He looked displaced. It’s too easy for me to construct such figures–whose nerves aren’t actually anaesthetised, whose affect is not yet numbed, who are still alive although, just for now, in a reduced way. The personal landscape they inhabit, that of being forever between events, is one of my favourites. When I was twenty I tried to occupy it permanently. I honoured all tramps, refugees, losers, & displaced persons you might meet and subsequently adopt in 1966 in the warmth of the all-night launderette, Holloway.
I’ve been at least one other person since then, but he’s gone too, along with his shadowy others.